Jen Cloher


Tonight is the first time I’ll be seeing Jen Cloher, the first time Jen Cloher will play in Manchester and the first time I’ll be attending a gig at the Eagle Inn in Salford. It’s good to try new things, especially when it comes to music. However, Jen is anything but new to the music world, in fact her latest self-titled album is her fourth record and she’s been releasing music for over a decade, with varying success and critical acclaim. Receiving a nice nod from the likes of 6Music, it’s this album that has brought Jen newly into the headphones of many music fans in the UK, myself included.

As I squeeze into the small back room of the Eagle Inn and into the set of support band and fellow Australians Cable Ties, there’s already a buzz within the crowd, a buzz that you don’t often get until the headline act take to stage; but this band’s youthful post-punk slaps you in the face, wakes you up and makes you pay attention. As they end with a tune chanting “I’m a human being, not a production unit”, I feel both enthused and inspired by the energy and attitude they’ve injected into the venue.

A quick break providing chance for a pint purchase and Cloher and her band begin their musical wonder of ninety minutes or so, with the undeniably gorgeous ‘Hold My Hand’ from 2013’s In Blood Memory. This is one of a few moments this evening where we see Jen turn to songs from her previous work, as well as a cover of The Go-Betweens’ ‘Love Goes On!’. Most of the set is brought to us from her current record, a record with an outpouring of longing and emotional distance in it’s lyrics and sound.

The songs are raw and explorative, and enable you to learn about Jen’s honest thoughts and feelings, a journey of her emotions, many of which connect and reflect on her life with wife Courtney Barnett, who this evening is stood to the side of the stage on guitar. A fond favourite of mine, Courtney is an established solo artist, but doesn’t steal the limelight despite her incredible guitar talent, and although Jen jokes “I’m full of rock clichés and Court’s the innovator”, it really doesn’t feel like that.

Songs like ‘Regional Echo’ with its shimmering bassline, the Velvet Underground-esque ‘Analysis Paralysis’ and ‘Strong Woman’ with its twisted guitars and punk vibe are interspersed with witty and charming chat, that provides a warmth that you usually get from watching your mate’s band live. It’s something you can only experience in a small intimate venue like the Eagle Inn, with endearing artists like Jen. My favourite song and the second single ‘Forgot Myself’ is unsurprisingly my favourite of the night, and as I sing it word for word, I feel wholly immersed. When the band finish their encore without leaving the stage first, Jen thanks her band, their tour manager, the sound guy and support band, and it feels like we have all become part of one music family. It may have been an evening of firsts, but it certainly wasn’t an evening of disappointments.

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Sarah Starkey

I am a Freelance Writer who is a bit music obsessive. Previously written for the likes of Music Vita and Planet Ivy. Life highlights include winning £2.50 on the Euro-millions.